The 9 Best Healthy School Lunch Ideas

Anthia Koullouros

Naturopath and Holistic Health Expert

I am champion of food that intuitively makes sense – what your great-grandma would have cooked, pre industrialisation, to sustain life and completely satisfy appetite and nutritional requirements. And in a stressed out modern society it is even more necessary to obtain nutritionally dense food.

Image via pinterest

We no longer live in our great-grandma’s era where home cooked meals were eaten at home and made from home garden grown or freshly farmed produce. We seek convenience, ease and pleasure with a variety of tastes and texture. We have different ailments, different daily rhythms, and different needs. We experience food allergies and intolerances (most likely due to stress and highly processed food that is devoid of nutrition and enzymes that aid digestion). We are spoilt for choice and it’s no longer about food for life.

These different times and needs have influenced what our school children are eating. A new category of food marketed to kids was developed.  Brightly coloured packaging, playful food shapes and food filled with artificial colours, flavours and sugar. The more they eat the more they want. The addiction and craving for sugar and man made created flavours sets in. These foods are highly processed for shelf life, stability and on the go readiness. Little packages for school box lunches and snacks that never go off but they are not real, fresh, whole foods.

As omnvoires we are designed to eat from both plant and animal sources. These together provide a complete source of protein, carbohydrates and fats for growing children and for life.

Healthy school lunch ideas (remember it has to be made from real food!):

Left over finger foods – meat balls, chicken drumsticks, chicken wings, lamb chops and a salad made from lettuce, cherry tomatoes (whole is better than cut), cheese cubes, sliced cucumber and carrots and any other favourite vegetables. Create a simple dressing or dip and store in a small container and place in with salad.

Left over chopped meat, canned fish (seek sustainable varieties such as those listed on the Greenpeace Tuna guide. Serve with salad or vegetables sticks (made from sturdy vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumber, capsicum, snow peas).

Hard boiled eggs (made the night before or boil a dozen for the week ahead) kept in their shell with salad or vegetable sticks.

Left over curries, risottos and stews.

Left over – egg fritters or frittatas cut into squares with salad or vegetable sticks.

Left over soups.

Sourdough bread sandwiches spread with hard block butter, avocado or ricotta with left over roast beef, chicken, ham slices and salad.

Cheese such as cheddar or little bocconcini balls with salad or vegetable sticks.

Snacks: home made slices, muffins, boiled egg, fresh fruit (whole or made into a fruit salad), yoghurt, vegetables sticks with cheese and dips (such as avocado or hummus) and freshly made in the morning -smoothies.

lunchboxxxImage via pinterest

Packaging tips to keep your kids school lunches fresh and crisp (and end to soggy tomato sandwiches)

Specially insulated stainless steel drink bottles and food containers are excellent for keeping food fresh and cold or hot. Left over soups and stews can be heated in the morning and poured into container. Freshly made cold smoothies and yoghurt and fruit can be made fresh and added to  cold container. Simply freeze container overnight in the freezer

A fantastic brand called Kleen Kanteen can do just this – keep food and fluids hot for 6 hours and icy cold for 24 hours.

Another brand is Lunchbots. They too produce insulated and leak proof food containers that keep meals warm for hours or cold foods cold. Perfect for sandwiches made with meats, fish, chicken or cheese, salads and meat, finger foods with eggs, cheese, dips and vegetables sticks.

No only are they the best lunch box solution, these brands are free of chemicals. Recent disturbing news about toxic chemicals—such as BPA (Bisphenol A) and phthalates—leaching into food stored in plastic is good reason to search for alternative materials for packing lunches.  They also do not retain flavours and smells and they are reusable saving on plastic wraps, foil and paper wrapping. Stainless steel or glass is the best option.

What to do about allergies and respecting school food rules?

Many schools do not allow certain foods. The main one being nuts and seeds due to the high number of nut allergies amongst school kids. This one humble school snack is no longer an option. Other schools restrict certain foods due to religious reasons or due to fears of salmonella or potential food poisoning due to poor preservation methods. Hence why meat in school lunches is banned at some Sydney schools. Do your best and stick with whole food even when devoid of animal protein at lunch. Make up for this with a good hearty egg breakfast and protein based dinners.

Take home lunch box message:

-Keep it real- real whole fresh foods that is.
-Eliminate processed packaged, ready to eat  junk food devoid of nutrition and filled with toxic additives.
-Invest in excellent containers for preservation.
-Cook extra for left overs from the night before.
-Make home made biscuits, muffins and slices.
-Keeping it whole: whole fresh fruit (with skin) and a whole boiled egg (with shell) is an easy snack and easy to preserve.


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